Parking in downtown Champaign would be free starting at seven PM --- that's part of a proposal from city staff that the Champaign City Council will look at during their study session next Tuesday.
City officials increased downtown parking rates and hours a year ago. That included charging for parking until 9 PM. But Deputy City Manager Steve Rost says they're now recommending that the hours be cut back. He says private parking options exist downtown in the evening that don't exist during the day. At the same time, Rost says patrons of restaurants and bars aren't interested in coming back out just to feed more coins in parking meters. Also, Rose says it was hard to explain to the public that the two-hour daytime parking limit doesn't apply at night.
Rost says the city is not recommending a rollback of downtown Champaign parking rates. While stressing that the final decision is up to the city council, Rose says the policy of charging 75 cents an hour in the heart of downtown with lower rates on the periphery is working. But city officials will propose new signage to explain parking policy --- including signs that encourage the use of the new downtown parking deck and surface parking lots for long-term parking. Rost says they also want to install pay-stations along some rows of parking meters --- allowing motorists to pay by debit or credit card.
Officials from the Champaign-Urbana area presented a long wish list Monday night, at a public forum held to hear ideas for spending money from a capital construction bill --- if state lawmakers ever pass one.
The forum in Champaign was organized by Illinois House Revenue and Finance Committee Chairman Jack Bradley. The Marion Democrat is holding forums across the state to find out specific local capital needs.
The transportation project most mentioned last night was Olympian Drive. Only about a mile of the north-side link between I-57 and U-S Route 45 has been built. Champaign Regional Planning Commission CEO Cameron Moore says businesses that moved into the north end of Champaign-Urbana were expecting Olympian Drive to be completed. "The fact that it hasn't been built", says Moore, "is having an impact on their ability to continue to operate efficiently. I also believe that businesses that are interested in coming into the area typically like to locate in growth corridors --- which this is. And being able to complete this significant arterial roadway would simply open up more opportunities for development in the area."
Moore says they're seeking five million in state funding for the 27-million dollar Olympian Drive project. They hope federal funding will take care of the rest.
Illinois lawmakers last approved a capital construction bill in 1999, and Bradley says a new capital bill is long overdue. He's proposed raising the Illinois Motor Fuel tax to fund the transportation component of any capital bill. Some who spoke at the Champaign hearing raised concerns that money would be diverted out of that tax revenue stream to non-transportation projects. Bradley says that could be avoided by additional language in the bill, and by sending the money to the state's Construction Account. He says diversions from that account are not possible.
Some grade schools in Champaign-Urbana could soon see a lot more of their students forgo at least part of the morning bus ride.
Around 2-thousand kids from 12 schools participated in International Walk to School Day Wednesday. It's aimed at promoting fitness and pedestrian safety. The students were accompanied by parents, teachers, police, and area officials as part of the annual event. But some of those parents could be recruited on a more regular basis. Rose Hudson is the local event co-chair:
The schools are really starting to take some ownership of it by really taking the day and incorporating more of their students by having the bussed students dropped off a block or two from school and feel like they're more a part of it. We get more parents that will actually walk or bike with their kids in the morning.
A $25,000 federal 'Safe Routes to School' grant pays for not only today's events... but a bike rodeo, which encourages the wearing of helmets and another safety tips... and billboard campaign to remind motorists of proper rules to follow when driving through school zones.
Nearly 4-million people in 40 countries participated in International Walk to School Day.